The most lavish and ambitious exhibition to be staged at Chatsworth opens this weekend (Saturday 25 March) starring a stellar roll call of iconic women connected with Chatsworth throughout the centuries.
House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth sees the grand rooms of the house dressed with couture designer dresses; tiaras and headdresses; christening and wedding gowns; coronation robes and 19th century fancy dress; livery and uniforms along with a wealth of ephemera. The effect is to reveal the cast of characters that have graced the rooms of Chatsworth, from 18th century fashion innovator Duchess Georgiana and Duchess Deborah, one of the famous Mitford sisters, through to Adele Astaire, sister and dance partner of Fred, Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, sister of JFK and former model Stella Tennant.
The inception of House Style came about when Lady Burlington was searching the Chatsworth textiles archive for a christening gown for her son, James. On seeing the sheer number of boxes in the store, all filled with clothing and textiles amassed over the centuries, she asked the Duke and Duchess if she could invite an expert to take a look. The expert turned out to be Hamish Bowles, Editor-at-Large of America Vogue, who visited a number of times over the years until it became apparent that the archive was of such value and scale that it needed to be shared with visitors.
Six years in the making, House Style features a timeline spanning the length of the Chapel Corridor boasting more than 100 items alone from personal letters; a gold brooch belonging to Duchess Georgiana; gloves and silk evening bags to miniatures, photos and the 11th Duke’s crocodile shoes. Among the many highlights along the visitor route is the Painted Hall’s juxtaposition of a Coronation Gown from 1937 with the wedding dress of Stella Tennant, granddaughter of Duchess Deborah.
Six dresses from ‘the party of the century’ have also been reunited for the first time since they were worn to the Devonshire House Ball in 1897. Every season, the 8th Duke of Devonshire and his wife Duchess Louise hosted a number of parties. For Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, they staged the costume ball of the century. The London photographic firm of Lafayette was invited by the Duke of Devonshire to set up a tent in the garden behind the house to photograph the guests in costume during the ball, and many of these wonderful photographs are on display in House Style.
The Derbyshire jewellers C W Sellors has recreated the headdress worn by Duchess Louise based on one of these photographs, which now completes the display of her costume.
Sponsored by Gucci, the exhibition also features two dresses designed by creative director Alessandro Michele personally for the Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Burlington. The Duchess’s dress was inspired by the Merian books in the Devonshire Collection and will be on display in the State Closet while the heavily beaded dress for Lady Burlington is shown in the State Music room.
Lady Burlington said: “It is so exciting to see the designs become a reality for this complex and layered exhibition. House Style has developed over the last six years to encompass far more than we originally envisaged when we first started delving into the Chatsworth archive. In some cases, clothes that haven't seen each other since the 19th century are being reunited. I hope visitors will appreciate the scale and ambition of the exhibition, and enjoy exploring the stories that this clothing and memorabilia reveal about the Cavendish family.”
The Duke of Devonshire said: "Amanda and I are very grateful to our daughter-in-law Laura Burlington and the team for having the vision and determination to bring this exhibition to life. The breadth and diversity of what is on display in House Style, combined with the manner in which it is shown, makes this our most ambitious exhibition to date. As someone who does not claim to know a great deal about fashion, I would certainly recommend House Style to all-comers, as the clothes are really a jumping off point into different moments of 500 years of history.”
The exhibition culminates in the Great Dining Room with an impossibly glamorous costume finale evoking the end of the evening with more than 30 guests beautifully attired in a host of designer names from Chanel, Balmain and Vivienne Westwood to Dior, Tom Ford and Erdem.
One last footnote in the New Gallery is the film featuring rare moving footage of Adele Astaire dancing in Ireland, discovered in the Chatsworth archive in 2015, now made into a film by artist TJ Wilcox and shown here for the first time. Adele, sister and dance partner of Fred, married into the family in 1932 when she wed Lord Charles Cavendish. Duchess Mary recalled the family’s unforgettable first meeting with her son’s fiancé. ‘All gathered, like stone pillars, in the library: the heavy doors opened and there stood this tiny girl, beautifully dressed. We waited for her to approach us, but instead of walking she suddenly began turning cartwheels. Everyone loved it.’
Huntsman, the Savile Row bespoke tailors, has recreated a hunting ensemble originally made for Adele for the exhibition based on the original order found in their archives.
House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth has been made possible with the support of principal sponsor Gucci, together with C W Sellors Fine Jewellery, Investec, Sotheby’s and Wedgwood.
Hamish Bowles, International Editor-at-Large at American Vogue, has curated the exhibition with creative direction and design by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, the duo behind some of the most memorable fashion exhibitions of recent years.
To coincide with the exhibition, Rizzoli has published House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, with a foreword by the Duke of Devonshire; an introduction by the Countess of Burlington; edited by Hamish Bowles. Available from the Stables and Orangery shops at Chatsworth.
The exhibition runs from 25 March to 22 October 2017, and is included in the price of entry to the house. For full details of ticket types and to book, please visit: www.chatsworth.org/book-tickets/
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For further information, interview requests or images please contact:
Liz Bee/Steve Houghton
0115 910 1500
Notes to Editors:
Chatsworth is a member of the Treasure Houses of England, ten of the most magnificent palaces, stately homes and castles in England. treasurehouses.co.uk
The Chatsworth House Trust is dedicated to the preservation of Chatsworth House, the art collection, garden, woodlands and park for the long-term benefit of the public.
The charity promotes the study and appreciation of Chatsworth as a place of historic, architectural and artistic interest and of natural beauty, and encourages the use and enjoyment of Chatsworth by visitors for education and recreation.
Chatsworth is only 16 miles from the M1, 10 miles from Chesterfield, and 8 miles north of Matlock, in the heart of Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park, and is well served by transport links throughout the UK. For further information, visit: chatsworth.org
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